On January 17, 2016, in a statement following his signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, President Obama addressed that country’s people, stating that “yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world – in commerce, and in science and the arts.” While the former U.S. President’s evaluation of the Iranian people’s greatness is indisputable, there are questions concerning doing business with Iran which transcend conventional legal issues and commercial problems.
Given the juxtaposition of Iran’s duopolistic government structure and ideologically oriented decision-making processes, questions arise as to what extent multinational corporations, including U.S. companies, should reasonably expect to conduct commercial transactions with that country. Specific issues arise related to Iranian banks, international credit recognition, terms of payment, and the conceptual legality of interest in Iran. In addition, more practical issues arise related to the governing law of contract and proper dispute resolution mechanisms. Furthermore, U.S. regulatory constraints limit the efficacy of certain contracts between Iran and U.S. companies. This article attempts to illustrate the structural, legal and operational issues concerning doing business with Iran and, where possible, means for mitigating such issues.